|(From top): The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Bangkok; a view of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur; a sailboat off the coast of Sri Lanka
Low on cash, yet looking forward to a rocking holiday' Abroad' Don’t look despondent. It’s possible to have a blast in some of the best holiday destinations close to India and for just Rs 25,000 per head; accommodation, airfare and maybe a meal taken care of. Not only will the trips prove to be great value-for-money, the destinations are well connected to India and are perfect for shopperholics.
Look at a 3-night and 4-day trip and pay just about Rs 18,000 per person. This would include return airfare, stay, breakfast, airport transfers and half-day sightseeing. P. Manoharan, director, Tourism Malaysia says that the Indian market is one of the largest for Tourism Malaysia. “It is an ideal short haul destination, and so has a high percentage of repeat Indian visitors. The many attractions coupled with ever growing air connectivity have made Malaysia very competitive in the region.” he adds. The package could throw in KL, Penang and Langkawi. Customised itineraries can also be made for Sabah, Sarawak, Timon Island and Pangkor.
An average package over 5 days and 4 nights will cost 26,000 (a 3-night and 4-day trip would obviously come for under Rs 20,000). Forget mid-range hotels, for the package will throw in top-of-the-line hotels, airline tickets, both way airport transfers, breakfast and half-day sightseeing. Says Maadhuri Verma, destination manager, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, “Sri Lanka is a year-round destination and affordable too, making it a big draw for Indian travellers.” More good news: visas on arrival, some 88 direct flights on Sri Lankan Airlines from 10 Indian cities and direct and indirect connections on other international airlines gives easy access. The price could include Colombo and Kandy/ Bentota/Nuwara Eliya.
nMauritius is an aspirational destination ' and must figure on this list. Don’t do a double take. Mauritius may be a wee bit heavier on the pocket but is ‘great-value-for-money’ once you’re there. The minimum package for two people can start from a basic US$300 (about Rs 13,200) per person for 6-nights and 7-days on half board (that’s bed, breakfast and dinner). It is inclusive of return airport transfers as well as sight-seeing. The package ‘does not’ include airfare. Mauritius is now a duty free port and tourists can also avail visas on arrival. Once there, Mauritius rocks. It has a shoreline that stretches 330 km. Go for undersea walks, submarine rides; visit spas and casinos. Mauritius is a year round tropical destination.
With the devaluation of the Thai Baht during the economic crisis of the late 90s, Thailand has been offering visitors some great deals for hotel accommodation. A 4-night 5-five day package to Bangkok and Pattaya can start at Rs 23,000 and would include airfare on Indian Airlines, 4-star accommodation and two half-day sight-seeing trips. If you decide to do-it-yourself, the airfare will cost you about Rs 15,000, a room in a budget hotel may start at $12 while a 5-star hotel stay may cost just $50.
Shopping in Thailand is legendary. The other draw is the cuisine and from upper-crust restaurants to street food, there’s plenty to savour. When in Bangkok take in: ancient ruins and temples, take a long-tail boat ride through its canals, buy fresh produce at a Floating Market
The effort is on in earnest to promote Nepal as a safe tourist destination for the family. Well, life in Nepal has veered towards greater normalcy and tourists report feeling perfectly secure. It is not a big country, but Nepal and its capital city, Kathmandu are hard to beat for their sheer variety. Nepal has always been popular with Indians for its casinos and Hindu temples, and today the destination is gaining ground for its bargain holidays. A 3-night 4-day package at a 4-star hotel can come for as little as Rs 7,680 per person on twin sharing basis. This would include airfare on Cosmic Air, two half-day sight-seeing tours, and breakfast. A similar package at a 5-star isn’t much more expensive and costs just under Rs 10,000 per person. Going solo: the airfare to Kathmandu on Cosmic Air is just about Rs 4,500. Indian (Airlines) would cost about Rs 6,500. To enter Nepal, you need a passport for identification purposes, though a visa is not needed.
Stop press: You can also sling two value-for-money destinations along with a trip to the Lion city ' that’s Singapore, Bangkok and KL. The package cost for 9-nights 10-days is about Rs 44,444. Airfare, stay in 4-star hotels, breakfast, two sight-seeing trips per destination, airport transfers all thrown into the price. Need you ask for more'
My favourite holiday
My favourite holiday has to be my most recent in Thailand. I just spent New Year’s Eve there with seven friends and it was absolutely out of this world! We were in Thailand for eight days and stopped over at Bangkok naturally, as well as Phuket and Pattaya.
Phuket was the best part of our trip and 31st night was spent out on the beach. The ambience, the people — everything was just great, and the fireworks were spectacular. Hundreds of fanush or small hot air balloons were let off into the sky. Lovers usually light these and locals believe that as far off as you can see the fanush glowing in the sky, your love will strengthen and endure. It was truly magical and after witnessing such New Year celebrations, one can’t imagine anything better !
Bangkok and Pattaya were nice too, especially Bangkok for all the awesome shopping trips we managed to pack in. Also, the foot massage I had there was simply unforgettable!
Australia has now become a hot destination for Indian holidaymakers. But how about a package that’s cheaper than anything on offer before. Consider the details. City-based Vensimal Travels has tied up with Singapore Airlines and Qantas to offer an all-inclusive 9-night Australia deal for Rs 66,999 per person (valid till March 15). Vensimal’s previous going rate for a Down Under deal was about Rs 79,000.
With 3 nights each in the Gold Coast, Sydney and Cairns, airfares, daily breakfasts, airport transfers, accommodation in three-and-a-half star hotels (ie 4-star facilities at 3-star prices), it’s a rocking time all the way. Throw in a trip to Warner Bros’ Movie World, a city tour of Sydney and a tour of the Great Barrier Reef, which includes lunch and a host of water activities. Of course visa charges and taxes are extra. For more, contact Vensimal at 2225 3230.
Looking for a holiday with a difference' How about somewhere on the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Africa ' Kenya, it is. That’s a destination with endless opportunities for adventure, especially umpteen options for going on a safari. Masai Mara Game Reserve is ‘the’ place to experience Kenyan wilderness at its best. A 7-day 6-night package can be booked for Rs 60,000 (per head), which includes airfare, accommodation with breakfasts. Visits to Nairobi, Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Aberdere are included.